By Sammi Dorfan (’18)
I am reluctant to begin writing this because I know that if I do, it will be the beginning of the end of my four years writing for The Lions’ Den. “Rewrite! Hooks should be captivating, not hackneyed!” Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be Editor-in-Chief of a high school newspaper? “Rewrite! How many people can actually answer yes to this question?” It all started with the six essential journalistic questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? “Now we’re getting somewhere. Keep going!” Who? A timid freshman. What? Journalism class. When? 2014. Where? F204. Why? Said freshman liked to write. How? Walk in and request to join the class.
In the beginning, it was simple. I wrote for the sake of writing; I loved words and the phonetics of pairing different ones together. I was more confident in my ability to write than I was in my ability to speak and journalism gave me the forum to express my ideas without having to open my mouth. And so, in a flurry of misplaced commas and overly poetic language, I reviewed movies, compiled top ten lists, and used my limited knowledge of athletics to recap SDJA sports seasons. Still unsure of who I was or where my journalistic passions lay, I accepted assignments without preference. When I eventually weaned myself off the five paragraph essay format that was so ingrained in my fingers and brain, I was swift to come up with headlines and quoted and transitioned, quoted and transitioned seamlessly. But still, my articles were just assignments, and the hours I spent laboring, just time that I could have put to other use.
In the middle, things got complicated. Whether it was the rise of perfectionism or the fall of apathy, I don’t know; but to every article, I became attached. I chose my topics deliberately and cradled them as if newly born throughout the entire process. I fell in love with talking to people because I felt that it gave me a responsibility to intermediate between my interviewees and my audience. I wanted to hear what people had to say and I noticed that people wanted to be heard. Researching became a hobby of mine and sometimes I’d spend days spiraling into rabbit holes of stories, facts, and statistics before I’d emerge, only to realize I’d deviated miles from the original route. The same thing started to happen with articles that weren’t even my own. I’d read and research and check and edit, but I just could not let go. It was always “one more time.”
Now that it’s the end, I can tell you that the six essential journalistic questions that I answered in the beginning are old news. I am now a confident journalist who pioneered the shift to an online paper and learned to give feedback instead of rewriting. It got stressful at times– the begging for articles, the deciphering of InDesign and WordPress, the reassuring myself that it was time to hit publish. But I can say with conviction that the time I spent doing it was indispensable to my growth as a student, a writer, a thinker, and a human.
Thank you to Mr. Riley who inaugurated my journalistic career, instilled in me a knowledge of technique and a curiosity about the world, and taught me how to “tell the human story.” Thank you to my readers; I don’t know how many of you there are, but thank you for listening to me all these years. As much as I’d love to stay, some newsroom somewhere else is waiting for me and I leave this one in the helpful, capable hands of Joseph Vilenski and Moriah Seymann. Farewell, Lions and don’t ever let anyone tell you that our school is too small to be bursting with stories.
Sammi Dorfan (Editor-in-Chief 2016-2018)